One could say that Abdurrahman Wahid was born to lead the world's largest Muslim organization, the 25 million-member Nahdatul Ulama (NU), founded by his grandfathers and a third Muslim teacher in Jombang, Java, in 1926. As NU chief since 1984, Wahid was one of the most respected figures in Indonesian Islam and the most politically active. The stout, soccer-loving Wahid also headed Forum Demokrasi, which welcomed dissidents and human-rights advocates. From behind his thick spectacles, Wahid spoke frankly on national issues to ministers, diplomats, journalists, and others who consulted him. Many admired his defense of Indonesia's Christian minority. Even the powerful military was keen to maintain good ties to a perceived bulwark against radical Islam. Honoured in 1993 with the Magsaysay Award, Wahid was elected the following year to lead the World Council for Religion and Peace
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